Lifting standards wins awards

11 May 2005

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — A gold medal in an international junior weightlifting championship is just one of a string of recent achievements in sport, the arts, and community service by Baha'is on this Caribbean island.

When Christopher Clarke, 14, won gold in the junior weightlifting competition in Slovakia this year, he beat competitors from traditionally strong nations in the sport such as Hungary and Poland.

Last year he won gold medals in the snatch (62.5 kg) at the Pan American School weightlifting championships held in Colorado Springs, United States, and also at a championship in Montreal.

Christopher likes to compete but has a special attitude towards his rivals. "I think of them as friends that I am playing with," he said.

His faith, he said, helps him in his sport.

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Champion junior weightlifter Christopher Clarke with some of his awards.

"When I go to make a lift during competition, I feel as though I am not alone, as though someone is there with me," he said.

"It (his faith) motivates me, especially knowing that others are saying prayers for my success," he said, adding that Baha'is also support him by welcoming him at the airport as he arrives back from competitions.

Other young members of the Baha'i community of Barbados have also won recognition in the past year but in different fields of endeavor.

Rahmat Jean-Pierre, now 21, won silver and bronze awards for dance and music respectively in the 2004 National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), and Simin Dolphin, now 17, was recognized last year for her academic excellence in Spanish.

"This testifies to the motivating power and example of Baha'i children, junior youth, and youth in the wider community," said Debbie Kirton, a spokesperson for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Barbados.

Ms. Kirton attributed the success of many individuals in the Baha'i community to the fact that as Baha'is they understand and appreciate the value of excellence in all undertakings.

The Baha'i youth of Barbados have older members of the Baha'i community as role models in service to the community and to the arts.

For example, Diane Bourne-Daniel, received a National Cultural Foundation Stalwarts award last year for her indigenous and original craft, a tribute that followed recognition in the same field in 2003 when she received the "Queen's New Year Honour Award" and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Hazel Beckles received the "United Nations Volunteer Service" award for exceptional contributions to the upliftment of the people of Barbados, and she also received recognition for being a founding member of the Justice of Peace Association.

Last year, Michael Forde won the Governor-General's award for original music as well as other prizes, and Rhonda Lewis won a "National Cultural Foundation-Ervin Burgie" award for excellence in the creative arts, along with university awards in the humanities.

The Baha'i community of Barbados has 10 Local Spiritual Assemblies.

The community organizes regular study circles, children's classes, and prayer gatherings, all of which welcome participation by the general public.